Southern Foodways in Black and White
October 7-10, 2004

The seventh annual Southern Foodways Symposium scrutinized race through the lens of foodways. We studied, debated, and celebrated the South’s food culture by way of events that focus upon race relations.

The SFA believes that racial chasms can be bridged when we recognize our common humanity across a table piled high with bowls of collard greens and platters of cornbread. We believe that food is our region’s greatest shared creation. And we see food as a unifier in a diverse region, as a means by which we may address the issues that have long vexed our homeland. These beliefs engendered our programming.

Rachel Lawson shared her work with veterans of the Nashville Sit-In Movement. SFA screened two films: On Flavor, which tells the story of Ed Scott, the first African American catfish farmer in the Mississippi Delta, and Welcome Table, a tribute to the women who fed who fed the Civil Rights Movement, featuring Martha Hawkins. Olu Dara, a native of Mississippi, led his Natchezsippi Dance Band in an afternoon concert that pays homage to Southern icons like prickly okra and juicy strawberries, not to mention fabled writers like Zora Neal Hurston.

Governor William Winter offered the invocation, and Brother Will Campbell preached the Homily. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Diane McWhorter hosted a conversation with symposiasts, and Reverend Bernard Lafayette waxed eloquent about the Beloved Community, the Civil Rights movement, and food. There were frank conversations about race, class, and domestic relations with Trudier Harris, Donna Pierce, and Susan Tucker. Poet Nikki Giovanni delivered Sunday morning’s farewell address.

And then there was the food. Sandwiches of Coca-Cola brisket, made with pastured beef; Mississippi catfish, sheathed in a cornbread mantle; whole hog barbecue, cooked by a North Carolina master; light-as-a-feather biscuits from Knoxville; tender-as-a-mother’s love grillades from New Orleans, and a quartet of fried chickens, cooked by exemplars of the frying art. At the close of the weekend, the Founder’s Toast and Altar Call invited all back to the table in 2005.